Archaeologists have used teeth since long to reveal information related to lifestyle, cause of death, and ancient civilizations. However, a recent study reported by the Daily Mail suggested that teeth can also give us information about the future. Researchers have found that teeth can predict the susceptibility to mental health disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression, in children.
The lost milk teeth of six-year-olds were scrutinized and it was found that children with thin enamel might be at the risk of developing attention deficient issues. Lead author, Dr. Erin Dunn, a psychiatrist at the Massachusetts General Hospital, said that while a discovery like this could be commonplace for archaeologists, it is extraordinary in psychiatry as it opens the gate to an entirely new outlook for screening mental health disorders, which are on the rise.
Dr. Dunn stated that it was something they had never seen or thought of before. Her team comprised anthropologists, public health practitioners, and archaeologists and she presented her work at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAs) in Washington.
The researchers asked 37 parents from California to donate the teeth of their 6-year-olds when they fell off. Each tooth was examined using high resolution imaging. This analysis was later extrapolated to study the behavior of kids. Compared to other biomarkers that a psychiatrist would look for usually, teeth quality and differences in dimension were found to be better predictors of mental health.
Scientists across fields need to work together
Dr. Dunn shared that it was important that scientists across fields worked together as it would add more dimensions to a research. She added that scientists usually had a tendency to get isolated and worked with people from the same field. For example, psychiatrists worked only with psychiatrists and psychologists worked only with psychologists. People generally refrained from moving across disciplines or exploring other related facets in a research.
Dr. Dunn stated that this study is a proof of the fact that there is a need for more interdisciplinary science and how more efforts can provide one with the opportunities to view things from different angles which might be completely unexpected.
Warning signs of a mental illness in adolescents and teens
Sometimes, it can be really difficult to tell if a child or teen’s behavior is a normal part of growing up or something else. If the symptoms lasts for weeks or months, it warrants a visit to a healthcare professional. Some of the warning signs of a mental illness are:
- Feeling extremely anxious and worried all the time
- Throwing tantrums and getting irritable
- Having frequent headaches, stomachaches and other unexplained aches
- Trouble sleeping with frequent nightmares
- Low or no energy
- Avoiding friends
- Smoking, drinking or using drugs
- Engaging in self-harm and other risky behaviors
- Losing interest in things used to enjoy previously
- Having trouble doing well in school or sports
Road to recovery
Good mental health is important for the overall well-being of children as well as teens, as these are their growing years and they shape the future personality of the child. For many adults experiencing mental health problems, the symptoms were present when they were growing up but were undiagnosed or ignored. It is therefore, important that a mental health disorder is detected early and receives timely diagnosis.